Central and southern Arizona's year-round warm weather and beautiful landscapes make outdoor spa treatments a one-of-a-kind ritual. When seeking a signature spa experience, consider the following world-class spas where visitors can be soothed—or enlightened—alfresco.
Spa at The Boulders Resort
Take the serenity of the Sonoran desert and add a labyrinth: You've got the setting for The Boulders' Shamanic experiences and zen therapies, designed to help reduce stress and nurture connections with nature, body, and soul.
During guided meditations at the labyrinth, participants are encouraged to contemplate a difficulty they would like to leave behind, symbolized by a stone they receive to carry through the maze.
Credit: Lonna Tucker
Sanctuary Spa at Camelback Mountain Resort
Where: Paradise Valley
Imagine floating in warm water, cradled in the arms of a therapist who gently leads you in a slow dance, the light and shade of bamboo fronds playing against your closed eyelids. That's just a hint of what to expect from Watsu, an aquatic version of Zen shiatsu highlighted at Sanctuary's Asian-inspired spa. You can even experience it after dark, under a canopy of stars.
Also offered is Luk Pra Kope, a signature treatment meaning "to massage with medicinal herbs" and is recommended for those with joint mobility issues. It combines elements of Thai massage, heated herbal remedies and a kaffir lime exfoliation of the feet. The result is ultimate relaxation, balance and harmony.
L'Apothecary Spa at L'Auberge
Sedona is known for its red rock formations, but the shady woodlands of Oak Creek Canyon, where L'Auberge de Sedona's creekside spa treatments are offered, are equally breathtaking.
A three-sided cabana tent provides views of sparkling Oak Creek, as well as privacy for everything from a couples massage to energy healing—pretty much anything on the spa menu that doesn't require electricity or running water. Be sure to call ahead to book the ultra-popular creekside treatments. They can be a challenge to schedule because they depend on the light as well as on the weather and because the lovely spot where they're held is often bogarted by brides and grooms for wedding ceremonies.
Live in Balance Spa at Miraval
Designed to bond visitors with their Southern Arizona surroundings, a mini-village within Miraval's spa complex, dubbed the New Life Village, is devoted exclusively to outdoor spa treatments. Each private unit has a patio and alfresco shower and is surrounded by a live ocotillo fence.
Among the specialty services unique to this spa-within-a-spa are the Mindful Massage, incorporating hot and cool stones and an assortment of mind-body techniques that are central to the Miraval philosophy; and Bountiful Earth, a sensual journey around the world that includes a Yucatan-inspired coco-mole clay wrap and ends in the Southwest with a massage using oils that hint of the woodsy scents of cedarwood and juniper.